Helipad Bill Hits Turbulence in Senate

Assembly member Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) says some hospitals in California face a particularly frustrating obstacle when they fly in far-away patients by helicopter.

“In Riverside, they land on the roof of a parking garage across the street. Marin General has to use a park nearby to land helicopters, and then drive them to the hospital.”

In the transport of trauma patients, saving those few extra minutes could also save a life, Hill said.

“There’s a golden hour, that amount of time where trauma patients can survive,” Hill said.

Hospitals need helipads, Hill said. So he proposed a bill, AB 1272, that was designed to help smooth out the process to build them. The bill sailed through the Assembly on consent, and proponents expected to have similarly clear skies in the Senate.

Instead, they ran into some rough weather.

Turns out Hill’s plan could be perceived as a circumvention of the California Environmental Quality Act, and that’s a red flag in Sacramento.

In the Senate health committee today, even when the bill had been stripped of its provisions for appeal after CEQA review, it was unanimously sent back to the Rules Committee.

A staff member from Hill’s office said Assembly staffers would sit down with emergency medical services representatives to see what’s working and what’s not. The bill never aimed to get around CEQA rules, the staff member said, and no one in the Assembly took it that way. But even the appearance of ignoring CEQA is enough to alter the proposed legislation, he said.

In the health committee hearing, Hill summed it up this way: “Now the analysis is done before CEQA, not after. This new approach retains local control, while also taking into account the impact on health of the community.”

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